Vijay Seshadri

BA, Oberlin College. MFA, Columbia University. Author of Wild Kingdom, The Long Meadow, The Disappearances (New and Selected Poems; Harper Collins India), and 3 Sections (September, 2013); former editor at The New Yorker; essayist and book reviewer in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Threepenny Review, The American Scholar, and various literary quarterlies. Recipient of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, James Laughlin Prize of the Academy of American Poets, MacDowell Colony’s Fellowship for Distinguished Poetic Achievement, The Paris Review’s Bernard F. Conners Long Poem Prize; grants from New York Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; and area studies fellowships from Columbia University. SLC, 1998–

Undergraduate Courses 2017-2018

Writing

Documenting Identity: Undergraduate Nonfiction Writing

Open , Seminar—Fall

Identity politics, which has been of serious consequence across the political spectrum recently, has been accompanied by an explosion of identity writing over the past 30 years. In this (largely, though not exclusively) nonfiction writing class, we will look as deeply as we can into what identity actually is—and what, as far as literature is concerned, the rhetoric of identity is—by reading writers ranging from Whitman, Freud, Kafka, Pessoa, Woolf, and Baldwin to contemporaries whose subject matter comprises race, sex, disability and ability, gender dysphoria and euphoria, and existential exaltation or dread. Conference work will consist of reading tailored to individuated projects; one large identity essay (the term is flexible and can encompass anything from journalism of the self to confession to critical inquiry), which will be workshopped; and a series of short exercises, some of which will also be discussed in class.

Faculty

Mind as Form: The Essay, Personal and Impersonal

Open , Seminar—Spring

The essay has been resorted to as a vehicle of intimacy and directness—not only by writers in other genres but also by artists of other art forms and by intellectual workers in a wide variety of fields. Why is this? Maybe because the essay is flexible enough to adapt to the shape, structure, and movements of our minds as they actually function. We will examine the essay by reading 15 to 20 significant examples of the genre, ranging from contemporary writers (Maggie Nelson, David Foster Wallace, Nancy Mairs, and Claudia Rankine, among others) to writers from recent history (Sontag, Didion, Mailer, Eiseley, Baldwin, Orwell, and Miyazaki), from its classic writers (Yeats, Pater, and Hazlitt) to its creator (Montaigne), and then to its prehistory in the sermon, the meditation, the epistle, the spiritual autobiography (Edwards, Basho, Augustine, St. Paul, and Plato). Conference work will comprise two essays, both to be presented to the whole class, and a series of exercises. ​

Faculty

Previous Courses

Alternatives in Nonfiction

Open , Seminar—Spring

This two-in-one class will develop—through readings, short exercises, and the production of a couple of large stand-alone pieces of work—an understanding and a mastery of writing at the opposing poles of contemporary nonfiction. In the first half of the semester, we will explore journalism at the point where it becomes literature; in the second half of the semester, current and historical radical and experimental forms of factual writing. The reading list will include writers ranging from Sei Shonagon, Jonathan Edwards, and Thomas DeQuincey to Kamau Braithwaite, Joseph Mitchell, Jan Morris, Susan Sontag, and David Foster Wallace. Students will be expected to embrace both the discipline of clarity and classical order and the imperative to make art that is new, strange, and unprecedented.

Faculty

Nonfiction Workshop

Open , Seminar—Spring

This workshop will focus on the elements common to a wide range of nonfiction writing. We will examine and analyze the structure of the well-formed sentence, of the paragraph, of the personal essay and memoir fragment, and of literary journalism. Readings will be drawn from a wide range of contemporary texts, some very current, with a few classic texts as models; and the class will be assigned exercises based on the readings. We will look closely at some point in the semester at experimental nonfiction writing. Students will also be asked to workshop at least two substantial pieces of nonfiction prose and a number of smaller pieces. We will investigate the issues surrounding the notions of style and voice and will spend a considerable amount of time thinking collectively about how factual material and research are accommodated within the stylistic constraints of literary texts. My expectation is that the discussions will be lively and civil and that everyone will contribute.

Faculty

Nonfiction Writing

Open , Seminar—Spring

This workshop will focus on the elements common to a wide range of nonfiction writing. We will examine and analyze the structure of the well-formed sentence, of the paragraph, of the personal essay and memoir fragment. Readings will be drawn from a wide range of contemporary and classic texts, and the class will be assigned exercises based on the readings. We will look closely, at some point in the semester, at contemporary experimental nonfiction writing. Students will also be asked to workshop at least two substantial pieces of nonfiction prose and a number of smaller pieces. We will investigate the issues surrounding the notions of style and voice and will spend a considerable amount of time thinking collectively about how factual material and research are accommodated within the stylistic constraints of literary texts. My expectation is that the discussions will be lively and civil and that everyone will contribute.

Faculty